HR Should Have No Friends At Work

Having friends at work is good. Yes?

Several articles here on extol the benefits of workplace friendships. “Here’s Why Encouraging Work Friendships Is Good For Business” says retention improves, stress is lessened, employee referrals increase and engagement increases.

So why did Suzanne Lucas, the Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas, tell a DisruptHR audience not to have any workplace friends?

“We need to keep boundaries. We need to find ways to have an open door so that everybody, all of our employees feel comfortable coming to us with their problems.We have to have a line.”

But Suzanne, why can’t I do that and still have at least one good friend at work?

“What happens,” she asked her Zurich audience last year, “If you have one of these good friends in the office?” and you have to make a recommendation for a raise or promotion for them. Or have to take disciplinary action or have to decide on who gets laid off?

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But, you say, I’m fair. I can do that. You’re convinced of that, and you might even be right, yet what do you suppose the rest of the company thinks? Spend a few minutes and hear what Lucas has to say about that and you’ll know why HR needs to say, “Sorry, I can’t be your friend.”

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